This past week, I was honored to be included in Diablo’s first ever Global Influencer Summit covering the Necromancer. While there I and other influencers from around the globe got to play the demo first shown at PAX East and attended multiple feedback sessions with the developers to discuss different aspects of the upcoming Necromancer class. I learned a ton of new information and will be covering the event over a series of articles focusing on the different panels I attended.
To answer the two most pressing questions the community is dying to know: Blizzard did not reveal the price nor did they give a release date for the Rise of the Necromancer pack. The only piece of information we were given at the event about the release of the Necromancer was that it would coincide with Patch 2.6, but I want to make exceptionally clear that Patch 2.6 is not synonymous with Season 11. We’ve had many, many Patch 2.X.2+ patches in the past for the launch of Seasons and at no time did Blizzard ever hint that Patch 2.6 would drop alongside with Season 11. We covered a wide range of topics and there was a lot that we learned about what exactly goes into designing a class for Diablo III. I’ll be breaking up my coverage of the event into a series of three articles covering everything we learned as well as my thoughts and feelings on the event and the Necromancer.
The event itself started off with a presentation covering all the basics of the new skills available to play in the Meleemancer demo and some hands-on time with the demo itself. After the demo and presentation, we were broken into 4-5 person groups and attended 30-40 minute feedback sessions focused on specific aspects of the Necromancer, though there was a bit of overlap between some of the panels.
Presentation & Demo w/ Senior Game Designer Joe Shely
This presentation and demo were almost exactly the same as the one experienced by Leviathan and Dredscythe at PAX East, so I’ll refer back to their article for an overview of the demo build and skills shown. The two new things that were learned at this summit was the redesign of Command Skeletons and the first look at Revive.
Command Skeletons is being changed so that it no longer summons Skeletal Mages. The developers were having issues zeroing in on the feel of the skill and functionality of the runes when it created both melee and ranged skeletons. By removing the ranged component, the developers had a much easier time finding a theme for it and to double down on the visual style of having Skeletons jump in and decimate demons with vicious attacks. We were assured that Skeletal Mages would still be a part of the Necromancer, but Joe declined to answer any further questions as to whether they would be a part of another skill, passive, or produced via an item.
Revive was first talked about during the Facebook Q&A from a few months back and has been a hot topic of the community ever since. We got to see a small video showing the skill in action, where the Necromancer killed off a few Fallen and then used their corpses to Revive them and kill larger mobs. The revived pets were more than capable of killing on their own with no interaction needed from the Necromancer except to continue to Revive more and more pets. Mechanically, Revive is a Corpse-type skill, and there will be limit on the number of revived minions you can have at any one time: there will be a rather short duration on the revived pets and the intent is that this duration will be the overall limiter of the skill. There are certain back-end mechanics that will determine the strength of the Revived pets, but they should all be able to hold their own; players should develop a good understanding of which mobs will be stronger than others based on the type of monster you use the skill on. One big change Joe mentioned since the FB Q&A was that most monsters will be Revive-able, and Mallet Lords, that had been specifically called out previously as being excluded from the skill, will be able to be Revived.
Builds & Playstyles: Modernizing the Necromancers w/ Lead Producer Rob Foot
We spent most of this sessions talking the Diablo II version of the Necromancer and what we remembered most about it. What were our favorite skills? What were iconic items used by popular Necromancer builds? One series of questions I thought was interesting was when Rob started asking us about Curses, how big of impact did they have? Did we use all of them? What were ones we did use and what was their function? Did we use any of the AI curses (Dim Vision, Confuse, Attract)? It made me wonder what they may have planned for future curses for the Necromancer.
Skills & Passives w/ Senior Game Designer Joe Shely
In my group, we spent a lot of time talking about balancing Blood-type skills and the associated health costs. I, primarily, play hardcore and the addition of health costs onto skills makes for a playstyle I finally oddly attracting. Joe mentioned that it’s a very tough job trying to balance health costs for abilities: many games have tried over the years to varying degrees of success, but the theme of blood magic is something that just feels right for the Necromancer, so it became something that they were dedicated to making work. The biggest issue in designing these skills is making the health cost not be too high as to making them feel too risky to use, but at the same time not making the cost too trivial and completely negating the impact of the health cost. Blood skills should feel powerful; the risk behind the health cost should add more depth and feel, rewarding those who master it.
I asked if Necromancers would get a cheat death passive like the other classes in Diablo III and this led to a discussion about general class design. Joe wanted to make it clear that there wasn’t an internal checklist the developers use when creating classes outside of making sure all classes had a movement based skill so that no one class would lag too far behind in group play. If the developers did use a checklist, it’d make classes feel too similar and could end up being very limiting. Originally not all the classes had a cheat death passive and the developers were okay with this at first. It wasn’t until after Reaper of Souls launched that they really took a hard look at the impact of the cheat death passives on gameplay. The developers’ intentions for the hardcore playstyle is that there should be an underlying feeling of tension while playing; every fight could be your last, and at first they thought that cheat death passives undermined the tension by having a safety net. After taking a look at all classes and analyzing the impact cheat death passives had on people they discovered that it actually heightened the tension because these passives allowed players to push themselves into more difficult situations than they would have otherwise and the act of ‘proccing’ (having your cheat death passive trigger and go on CD) are some of the most tense moments in the game. It was after this that the developers decided on making sure cheat death passives were around even power across the board and that all classes would have one. While Joe didn’t give specifics he did say that the Necromancer will have a cheat death passive of some sort.
The last line of questions my group had was on pets. We learned that the Necromancer will have many forms of pet skills and will not be limited to just Command Skeletons, Raise Golem, and Revive. He did note that we could look at Fetish-based Witch Doctor builds for an idea of the upper limit of pets a Necromancer might command.
Still to come…
The last two panels I attended that day had some very in-depth discussions on Class Design and Themes that I’ll cover in Part II of this article series.